UPDATED: Approval of Westerville charter amendments helps keep city up with times

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Westerville city administrative offices

Westerville’s charter will stay current with the times, thanks to voters' overwhelming approval of five amendments on the fall ballot.

“The amendments proposed by the charter-review commission were modest in scope and will ultimately help keep the charter current with the times,” said David Collinsworth, Westerville city manager. “The charter-review commission is to be applauded for their diligent efforts in this once-in-a-decade review of our core governing document."

He said the amendments would help the city government operate more effectively and efficiently.

With absentee and all precincts reporting Nov. 3, Issue 12 was approved 12,349 votes to 3,121 votes, or 79.83% to 20.17%, according to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections. In Delaware County, the issue was approved 4,493 votes to 1,014 votes, or 81.59% to 18.41%, according to unofficial results from the elections board there Nov. 3.

Larry Jenkins, who served as chairman of the charter-review commission, said the changes that were proposed this year won’t have a fundamental change in how Westerville operates or provides services to residents. 

“The proposed and approved amendments were all about updating the charter to recognize the new technology for communication and to provide a more responsive and reasonable system of communication and response,” he said. “The fact that we have received such positive response from the voters just confirms the faith the Westerville citizens have in their government and their willingness to provide flexibility to council and staff to utilize the ever-changing tools and media.”

Jenkins said he’s glad to have had the residents' support and is proud of the efforts of the members of the charter-review commission. 

“I think this updated charter will strongly serve the citizens of Westerville for the next 10 years until the process is undertaken again,” he said.

The amendments include: 

• Updating the meeting and general posting/communication requirements to reflect more modern forms of communication, allowing for electronic notices and removal of antiquated “posting” requirements

• Clarifying that certain types of legislative action, generally those of a temporary, informal or ceremonial action (such as motions), are effective immediately. The charter specifies that except for certain identified types, ordinances and resolutions must be effective 30 days after approval.

Collinsworth said this would eliminate any possible confusion as to when certain legislative actions, such as resolutions in support of state legislation or a certain event or motions to purchase equipment, become effective after passage.

• Moving council members' terms’ start date to Jan. 1, which better matches standard government operation and citizens’ expectation. Council members’ current terms begin Dec. 1 and end Nov. 30 at the end of their four-year term.

 • Adjusting recall procedures to follow state statute. Recent changes in state law have made the recall-petition format more straightforward and understandable for the public, according to Collinsworth. He said following that procedure should prove less cumbersome than the city having its own separate procedure in the charter. 

• Allowing personnel-review board members to also serve on other boards. Collinsworth said the board meets so infrequently that this provides those volunteers an opportunity to get broader experience with the time they are donating to public service.

With all the other issues going on this year, Jenkins said, the charter review process may not be very exciting to residents but, he said, it’s an important example of representative government and the voice of the people.

The last time voters approved charter amendments was in 2010.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla